Commentary

Glanville looking for a little more action at Portland State

Updated: August 10, 2007, 11:26 PM ET
By David Albright | ESPN.com

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jerry Glanville is selling a dream.

Jerry Glanville
Steve BrennerJerry Glanville -- the man in black -- is bringing an attitude to Portland State.

And part of that dream includes convincing anyone who will listen that coaching Portland State University is the best job in college football.

Yes, that Jerry Glanville. And yes, he's serious.

So on Day 2 of fall practice -- better known as "Breakfast with Jerry" here on the Park Blocks -- it's no surprise to see the Pied Piper of Portland walking around the Peter W. Stott Community Field shortly after 7 a.m. in his familiar all-black outfit -- complete with sunglasses.

He doesn't seem to notice it's cloudy and raining.

In Jerry's world, black isn't simply a color. It's an attitude. And it includes sunglasses.

Even though the 65-year-old former NFL coach (and race car driver) will be prowling a college sideline as a head coach for the first time in his colorful and lengthy career, he's convinced that the move from Honolulu, where he was Hawaii's defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was the right one.

"We have good senior leadership and I think people here like to go to work," Glanville said after Tuesday's practice. "I didn't realize what a good job this was until this summer when we had a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade camp. This area is full of people with good work habits. This area is full of people with courage. That changes your job.

"It hit me that this is a better job than anyone in the country thought it was."

Including Glanville.

When he made the trip from Hawaii to Oregon for an interview in late February, it was simply as a courtesy to his then-boss June Jones and his long-time friend Mouse Davis -- a pair of Portland State Hall of Famers.

Jerry Glanville and Mouse Davis
Steve BrennerMouse Davis (right) followed Glanville from Hawaii.

"Two people that love the program asked me to come for the interview," Glanville said. "I didn't want to come, I had no interest. But two people that I respect and we're all connected at the hip said you've got to go and at least talk to them.

"When I came for the interview I found that the support was unbelievable and they want this to be special. If I came here and didn't find any of that, then you say thanks for the trip and you go home. I was overwhelmed during the interview process of how important it is to so many people.

"I'm more proud to be here every day because you find another reason why. We're in the world's best-kept secret."

On this day, the weather is helping that cause.

So, too, are the Oregon's two Division I-A programs. Both Oregon and Oregon State, thanks in large part to their recent success, command much of the state's fan and media attention when it comes to football.

And then there's the city's love affair with this summer's No. 1 overall NBA draft choice Greg Oden.

But none of these obstacles concern Glanville. Neither does the lack of amenities currently at his disposal.

Portland State plays its home games at venerable PGE Park, a Triple-A baseball stadium located off campus.

And the Vikings must share the urban school's one practice field with seemingly anyone and everyone. Following Monday's first practice, Stott Field, which was missing its only goalpost thanks to some vandals, was used for a high school cheerleading camp, ultimate Frisbee and a women's club soccer team.

Portland State also has no training table to help properly feed its athletes, something Glanville is working to change.

Football According To Jerry

On offense: "You run the football for toughness. You run the ball to tell your opponent that you're as tough as they are. But you throw the ball to ring the bell."

On defense: "We'll be the hardest-hitting football team on the West Coast. Those who don't want to hit people, we'll help them transfer."

On toughness: "If you think you're tougher than we are, we're going to run a play called 32 Cut, and I don't care if we gain a yard, we're going to knock somebody down."

So Jerry the dreamer pounds the pavement at every opportunity trying to drum up interest (read: ticket sales) and financial support for his football program.

No matter how successful Jerry the fundraiser and Jerry the marketer end up being, it won't equate to a single win on the field.

"We still have to go play," Glanville said. "You have to run, hustle, hit ... you've still got to shed blocks, but if you don't make mental errors and you're conditioned and you're tough, you've always got a chance.

"I will not score a touchdown, I will not make a tackle, I will not make a play. But the way I coach, when we get to the stadium the team doesn't need me. The preparation that takes place all happens before you arrive."

And the Vikings arrive to start their preparation before most teams because practice always starts at 7 a.m.

Portland State practices early every day -- and will do so all fall -- in part because it gives the coaches a chance to break down film and present the off-the-field learning to the players at meetings later the same day.

Right now the Portland State players are still trying to digest Glanville's 3-4 defense and the even more intricate run-and-shoot offense that was first introduced and perfected here by Davis during his stint as head coach from 1975-80 -- when his first two quarterbacks were June Jones and Neil Lomax.

"The real fun of this game is playing the games," said the soon-to-be 75-year-old Davis, who also was on Hawaii's staff until Glanville convinced him to make a return engagement with the Vikings. "But you must go through the practice to get to the fun. We'll get to the point where we're executing but we're not there yet.

"It's the same old deal: You gotta win. And it takes a little while to get it going. You've got to get to the point where you execute and we've got to work harder at that. I think we'll be a very good team this year."

Many of the preseason prognosticators agree.

Portland State is picked as high as seventh nationally in Division I-AA by one publication, and the Vikings are predicted by both the coaches and the media to finish second in the Big Sky Conference to defending league champion and national semifinalist Montana.

Glanville might have to work some magic to make that happen as Portland State, which finished 7-4 and second in the Big Sky last season, returns just nine starters (five offense, four defense) and 40 lettermen.

So far the magic has been in getting his players to believe in what he's trying to build before the first game at nationally ranked McNeese State.

To that end Glanville can be found patrolling his half of the practice field (Davis is in charge of the offensive half and the two close friends stay out of each other's way during practice) as he goes from one unit to another assessing his players' progress.

What's evident at every stop, and before every play in simulated situations, is that Glanville is very comfortable teaching the finer points of his defense and does so by asking a lot of questions and rarely raising his voice.

Jordan Senn
Troy WayrynenPortland State linebacker Jordan Senn loves having Glanville around.

"He's an amazing coach and I get a chance to run a defense that he used in the NFL," said senior linebacker Jordan Senn, the Vikings' leading returning tackler and a second-team Academic All-American. "The best way I can explain it is that I know algebra and he's teaching me calculus and I'm understanding it. Some coaches have all the philosophy but they can't explain to the players or make the players understand. He knows everything and he's getting everyone to understand why we're doing what we're doing. It's amazing.

"We've never had that much interest in our team. This is my fifth season here and people have never asked me about the team. But now I walk around with a Portland State football shirt on and people stop me and ask 'how's the new coach? What's it like playing for coach Glanville?'"

The players are effusive in their praise of the new staff, as are the other beneficiaries of Glanville's infectious enthusiasm.

"The biggest difference between [former coach] Tim Walsh and Jerry Glanville is that Jerry comes to my office and tells me where we're going," said Scott Herrin, Portland State's associate athletics director for marketing and sales. "He always wants to go sell some tickets. He wants the butts in the seats.

"It's a dream for me."

So far the results don't lie.

According to Herrin, Portland State sold 944 season tickets last year. The number for 2007 was north of 2,500 entering August, with the hope it could reach 4,000 by the home opener. For a team that hasn't averaged more than 10,000 in home attendance since 1999, this offseason has marked real progress.

Ask anybody and they'll tell you that Glanville's first five months on the job have been an unqualified success. But Portland State's real success will ultimately be measured in wins and losses each fall.

That part of Jerry's dream gets its first reality check on Sept. 1.

David Albright is the senior coordinator for college sports and can be reached at david.albright@espn3.com.